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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John Sevigny

Dates:  1969, 12 September -
Born:  US, FL, Miami
Active:  Mexico / US
American contemporary photographer who has worked in the bars in Mexico where ladies work as prostitutes or drinking companions. 
Artist statement: 
Despite appearances to the contrary, I’m not interested in documentary photography, but rather, in using cameras to develop an close relationship with the world around me. If I’m drawn to so-called social issues it has more to do with my curiosity about what’s on the other side of town, the other side of the country, other side of the street, than any desire to document social conditions or change the world.

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John Sevigny
Self portrait of John Sevigny 
2007, 13 October
Family history 
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Exhibitions on this website

Theme: Documentary
ThumbnailJohn Sevigny: Ladies' Bar 
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Ladies’ Bar statement
Ladies’ Bar is the product of more than 10 months of work in some of the roughest cantinas in Guadalajara -- Mexico’s second-largest city. The 25 pictures in this collection were taken in small bars frequented by criminals, drug addicts, prostitutes and aggressive drunks.
I chose to focus on cantina women, those who work as prostitutes and paid drinking companions, in order to create a metaphor for the treatment of women in Mexico and beyond. I’ve never considered myself a feminist as such. That said, this project is more about women than it is about Mexico.
In fact, while photographing people who because of economic and social realities have little choice but to work in cantinas, I was reminded of the women at the Super Dome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, dying slow deaths on national television because of economic and social realities in the United States.
This is not a project, however, about victims. I’ve tried to capture the complexity of these women, their strengths, their weaknesses, their cruelties and their generosity, their excesses and their vulnerabilities. I’ve never believed in the “quiet nobility of poverty,” the way a photographer like Salgado does. While there are many quiet, noble poor people, more often, deep poverty, like Francisco Goya’s sleep of reason, produces monsters. So while there are a few victims here, there are also quite a few monsters. Most of these women, like most people in the world, are both.
It’s difficult to explain this project without talking about discrimination against women in Mexico. Here, women who apply for jobs, even at US-owned corporations, are often required to provide proof they are not pregnant and don’t have children. Those who are pregnant are normally not hired because employers don’t want to pay maternity leave, which is required by law in this country. Single mothers and women older than 35 are normally not hired to work at “formal” jobs because they ask for higher salaries than younger, prettier women and because employers fear they are more likely to dedicate attention to their families rather than to work. This leaves many women – particularly those without formal educations -- with few options besides cantina work or dependence upon spouses.
There’s no moral to the story that I’m telling with these pictures. My goal as a photographer has always been to get as close as possible to reality and get it down on little pieces of light-sensitive paper in order to share it with other people so that what’s good and bad in the world isn’t forgotten.
Selected exhibitions
2007 “Love, Eroticism and Sexuality”, at Galería Arroyo de la Plata, Zacatecas, Mexico (juried group exhibition)
2007 “Ladies’ Bar: Mexican cantina women”, Florida State University Oglesby Gallery, Tallahassee, FL, USA (juried group exhibition)
2006 “International Exhibition of Fine Art Photography”, International Center for Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, CO, USA (juried group exhibition)
2003 “Barrio Hymns” photos by John Sevigny, State fair, Villanueva, Zacatecas, Mexico
2003 “Figuratively Speaking”, Fulton Street Gallery, Troy, NY, USA (juried group exhibition)
2002 “Homeless”, McNay Center for the Fine Arts, Tallahassee, FL, USA (juried group exhibition)
2002 “Guerillas y Ángeles” photographs by John Sevigny, Infoteca Central at the Autonomous University of Coahuila State, Saltillo, Mexico
2002 “Guerillas and Ángeles” photographs by John Sevigny, State Museum of Popular Culture, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
2002 “New Works on Paper”, University of Louisiana at Baton Rouge, LA, USA (juried group exhibition)  
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